Pat Huff recently returned with her husband from a mission to the St. George Utah mission where they served at the Cove Fort Historic Site. Their mission was a great experience as they helped greet and teach 61,000 visitors. Pat farmed, ranched, and worked as a Librarian in Pocatello, Idaho for 30 years. She now works as a freelance writer. You can find her on the Web at PatHuffCopywriter.com.
We’ve been asked questions since we returned, and we had the same questions before we left on our mission. So I would like to address them first:
1. Can we afford to serve? Yes, we actually had more expenses while on our mission because we had to pay RV space rent and pay for our lawn to be taken care of. But miraculously, we were able to meet these extra obligations and even have money left over each month.
2. Is my health good enough? Yes. We served with missionaries who were in their late 70’s and early 80’s, and they worked harder than anyone. Several missionaries came using canes for support when walking, but didn’t need them after a few weeks, despite being on their feet six or more hours a day.
3. Can I handle being with my “companion” for 24 hours a day? Yes. It takes some getting used to, but I became a better person by learning how to talk things out, become less selfish, and be more forgiving. It would be wise to be with your spouse as much as possible before serving.
4. How about my family? The Lord will take care of your family members. Several missionary couples with whom we served had wayward children start attending church and change their lives dramatically. In other words, serving a mission is definitely worth it because the many blessings far outweigh the small sacrifice!
Lessons Learned on My Senior Couple Mission
I can say that I’m a different person than before I left. I thought that maybe I had already learned everything I could before I left. Not so. I learned a lot in just a short few months.
First of all, I’ve learned that the Lord wants us to serve as missionaries and blesses us when we do, even in small ways. For example, I have hair that wants to do its own thing. While serving at Cove Fort, despite the frequent hurricane force winds, I never had a bad hair day. Since we got back, I haven’t had a good hair day!
God Holds the Map
I’ve also learned that God knows all of His children and wants them to return to him. I saw this message printed on the back of a motor home on our way to Richfield early in our mission. The message on the motor home said, “Life is a journey, and God holds the map.” I’d like to add, “and aren’t we glad it’s that way?”
If life is a journey, this means that we need to be going somewhere. Thanks to modern-day revelation, we know that our lives here on earth are an important part of the plan of salvation, or our journey back to live eternally with our Father in Heaven, Jesus Christ, and our families. Most of you would probably agree with me that God is in charge, but the difficult part is finding out what our individual “maps” look like. What is it that we should be doing to find happiness, or answers to our questions, or just find our way back home? Wouldn’t it be nice to have a map pop up on the wall every day?
I don’t mean to suggest that God looks down from Heaven and moves our little cars around on a map wherever He wants. This reminds me of the game called “Life.” All the players have a little car with people in it and experience different things. However, in real life this doesn’t happen. Instead, God gives us opportunities to learn and to grow by using our faith to receive guidance or “map points” on our journey through life.
But God doesn’t leave us clueless. He provides prophets and the scriptures, as well as personal revelation received through our prayers to help us. In D&C 6: 14, Oliver Cowdery received counsel that also applies to us: “. . .for thou has inquired of me, and behold, as often as thou hast inquired thou has received instruction of my Spirit. If it had not been so, thou wouldst not have come to the place where thou art at this time.” There are many “map points” along the way. What’s important is that we keep heading in the right direction back to our heavenly home. How do we do that?
Focus on Choosing the Right
Maybe you, too, have seen potatoes, or corn, or beans planted in very straight rows. Those straight rows go on forever and ever, even beyond the horizon. Before I farmed, I would look at those perfectly straight rows and wonder how in the world a farmer in a tractor could manage to plant such straight rows. Now I know how to do it. We must find a point away on the horizon and keep going toward it. We must resist the temptation to look down or to the right or to the left. Our entire focus must stay on that point on the horizon.
If we are to return to our Father in Heaven, we must stay focused on that point—or the celestial kingdom—in the horizon. Staying focused means always choosing what we know to be right, no matter what. I know that if we put the Lord first, we will be blessed. If the soccer game is scheduled on Sunday, choose church instead. If dance is on Tuesday, choose Activity Days first. If a school activity is scheduled on Wednesday, choose Mutual first.
My parents taught me this lesson about 44 years ago. The Beatles were scheduled to appear on the Ed Sullivan show, which came on TV at the same time as Sacrament Mtg. I wanted to stay home and watch the Beatles. My parents said, “no, we’re going to Sacrament Mtg. instead.” I didn’t like it at the time, but I can see that was the wiser choice and has helped me stay focused on the Lord throughout my life.
God Holds the Map for Investigators Too
Another thing I’ve learned is this: God also knows all His children and holds a map for them, too. Almost every day at Cove Fort I heard someone say, “I just felt impressed that I should stop.” For example, late one day I caught up with a man and woman “fence runners” at the barn. They were from New York City and had found the Fort on the internet. All they wanted to do was take pictures of the fire-enhanced sunset outside the Fort. However, I talked them into a flashlight tour of the Fort. They were enthralled with everything and had a difficult time pulling themselves away, in the dark.
The next morning I walked out of a room in the Fort at 9:30 a.m., and guess who I saw in the courtyard—these same two people taking another tour of the fort! They couldn’t get enough of the feeling of the Fort and had come back. They didn’t want to fill out a referral card to have the missionaries visit, but I felt impressed that they should have a Book of Mormon anyway. So the missionaries found one for me, and I took it out to the man and challenged him to read it and pray about it. He said that he would, because he recognized that it was given with love. He was correct, I truly felt tremendous love for both of these wonderful people.
The Lord also paired up missionaries with certain visitors. One day I was standing outside the office when a family with a young boy walked up. They hadn’t been greeted yet, most unusual, so I went to get a missionary to take them on a tour. I could tell that their son, a sweet young man, suffered from autism. Their assigned missionary came out, but their son grabbed my hand and wouldn’t let go. So my husband, Steve, and I ended up taking them on a tour. I had such a spiritual experience! Steve took the couple around the fort, but I stayed with their son and helped him experience the fort, in a way that I knew he needed. We climbed the trees, rubbed hands on the lava rock, and looked for bugs. Can this be a spiritual experience? Yes! The Lord knows all of His children!
Another time I was asked to head off a man who was going toward the barn. We went to the barn, bunkhouse, and blacksmith shop. With some talking, I got him into the Fort. At the end, he wanted a copy of the Book of Mormon. He was headed to Salt Lake City, and I later had a call from the missionary who met him at the Conference Center. This man told the missionary at the Conference Center that in the last room, the parent’s room, he felt that everything I had told him was true and he wanted to be baptized. He was invited to go across the street and meet with the sister missionaries serving on temple square. What a wonderful experience to know that I had a part to play in his embarking on the path back to our Father in Heaven!
Love is What It’s All About
Love is what being a missionary is about, and I’m grateful to have felt it for visitors every day. As a result of having served this mission, I have a greater appreciation and understanding of the fact that God knows and loves all of His children. One of my most memorable experiences was being assigned to the prophet’s room, girls rooms and parents rooms at Cove Fort days. It was very spiritually uplifting to be able to share my testimony about Joseph Smith, the restoration of the gospel, and eternal families with visitors for 4 hours a day in these rooms.
It wasn’t easy for us to get off on a mission. In 2004 we felt impressed that we should serve a mission. We had just listened to Elder Hales speak about the need for senior missionaries, and the impression that we should serve hit us. Five years later in fall 2009 we were sitting at the computer looking at missionary opportunities on the church’s website. All of a sudden, Cove Fort popped up on the screen, and we knew that’s where we should serve. By focusing on that point on the horizon and keeping a straight route back to our Father in Heaven, we would make another “map point” on our life journey by serving a mission. This was a wonderful opportunity and I’m grateful that the Lord helped us to serve.